Irelad women clinch silver at Champions Challenge in Scotland

Former Ballymoney player Megan Frazer (left)
Former Ballymoney player Megan Frazer (left)

Ireland had to be content with the silver medals at the Champions Challenge tournament in Glasgow after going down 3-1 to the United States in Sunday night’s final.

But they certainly were happy with the overall outcome after going into the showpiece with much lower expectations.

In fact, they secured their best ever finish in the competition in which they were third two years ago in Dublin.

“We would have been overjoyed with a top four finish so we have done a lot better than we expected and I am so very proud of all the girls,” said Ireland captain, Megan Frazer.

“Everyone in the squad and the entire back room staff have been just amazing and I couldn’t have asked for any more from any of them.”

Ireland took an early lead as they went in front in the third minute when Emma Smyth finished off a penalty corner variation with a first time shot.

But the USA equalised in the 25th minute through Kate Selenski and two minutes before the break the world number 10-ranked team made it 2-1 when Caroline Nichols netted from a set piece.

In the 55th minute Katie O’Donnell added number three to seal the win.

Despite Sunday’s result the tournament, taken in it’s entirety, must be seen as a huge success from an Irish perspective with many positives.

Ireland went into the eight-team competition ranked 15th in the world and with only Scotland occupying a lower place on the ladder.

But they consistently punched above their weight and pulled off some tremendous results, most notably a 2-1 quarter final win over Korea.

The Asians were the highest ranked team in the tournament and, at eighth in the world, are seven places better than Ireland but lost 2-1.

The only slight blip and under par display came in the Pool match against the United States who won more comfortably than the 3-0 score line suggested.

But apart from they it has been a wonderful week for Irish women’s hockey with the Ulster contingent playing their part.

Megan Frazer led by example, and was well supported in defence by Shirley McCay while Michelle Harvey, Katie Mullan and teenage goalkeeper Ayesisha McFerran all performed well when called upon.

In Saturday’s semi final Ireland came from 1-0 down to beat South Africa 2-1, Celia Evans scoring in the eighth minute.

Frazer equalised from a penalty corner seven minutes later and then a great run by Mullan set up Nikki Evans, who scored the winner in the 44th minute.

South Africa had chances late on as the woodwork and then goalkeeper Emma Gray came to the rescue to stop efforts from open play and a penalty stroke respectively.

Meanwhile, Ulster claimed the junior interprovincial trophy in Cork on Sunday after making it three wins out of three as they beat South East 4-1 after earlier defeating Munster 3-1 and Leinster 2-0.

Champions Challenge results: Sunday: 7th-8th place play off: Scotland 4 India 3; 5th-6th: Korea 1 Belgium 1 (Korea won 2-1 in shoot out); 3rd-4th: South Africa 1 Spain 0; final: Ireland 1 USA 3.

Saturday: 5th-8th first phase: Korea 3 Scotland 2; Belgium 4 India 2; semi finals: Ireland 2 South Africa 1; Spain 1 USA 3.

Final standings: 1. USA 2. Ireland 3. South Africa 4. Spain 5. Korea 6. Belgium 7. Scotland 8. India.